To clarify, I don’t like titles for people. Titles for books are ok. Anywho, everyone in Japan has business cards, mostly done up with English on one side and Japanese on the other—cool! Well it took me more than half a year to order any because I was intimidated by that big blank space under the name area. You know, that place where you have to put a (scary scream sound effect) Title. First of all, people get mad if you get their title wrong. And then when it comes to my own title it plays to all my insecurities. “Justify your existence in two to three words!! Not interesting enough! Not believable enough! Not true enough!” This goes along with my dread of the question, “So what do you do.…?” I understand that the asker (myself included when I’m doing the asking) is showing interest, looking for common ground or just looking for something to chat about besides the weather. But how do you sum everything up in two to three words?! It used to be so easy; “I’m a reporter” leaves lots of conversation routes (and ends a lot of conversations, actually). But now that I’m only marginally employed I’d have to pretty much give them a monthly run-down of my calendar to accurately answer. I almost want to just hand them a survey: “Please clarify your intentions by using the following questions: 1. What do you do to earn money? 2. What volunteer work do you do? 3. How much time does cleaning your dusty Japanese house require? 4. Why don’t you work full time?” And really my insecurity usually interprets “what do you do” as question #4 anyway. This makes me nervous, so I say stupid crap that nobody cares about (oh wait, no that’s just most of the time). Unless I prepare ahead of time! Before going to the States in October I knew I’d be meeting a bunch of people that I’ll probably never see again at one of those social events where the ominous Question No. 4 is the second line of any conversation, right after, “How do you know the bride?” I decided to instead try to answer the real question, which is, “so what should we talk about since we’re standing here talking?” It helped me to come up with a short summary ahead of time: “My husband and I are stationed in Japan because he’s a Navy pilot, and I’m one of the buyers for a shop there, and I occasionally write travel articles for free weekly newspapers…because such publications are my doom.” Minus the last part. Anywho, the point is, this is a good exercise to do before the rounds of holiday parties. I know my parents have been to some where people say awkward things like, “Oh so you don’t do anything?” to my mom, who was Mentor of the Year for her years and years of mentoring jr high and high school kids, volunteers at church relentlessly, does lots of free babysitting, does a lot of free counseling (perhaps to me), not to mention having live-in octogenarians at home. But how do you explain all that in three words?! She could have been asking that guy, “Wait—what do YOU do??” Maybe the best answer for everyone is, “I’m good with people!!!” (Office Space).
Ok so How to Survive Holiday Parties:
1. Be thankful for all the things you ARE doing. I’m thankful there’s no full time work for me here because that would leave no time to A. fly to the States for social events, B. go on adventures like the last post on Sankeien Garden, C. do interesting part-time jobs. So why do I still feel insecure about it!? I know I can trust God professionally as well as personally—after all, when I thought my journalism career was over-ish in Pensacola, the phone rang and it was Bloomberg with the perfect part-time job.
2. Come up with an answer, serious or otherwise, and say it with a smile! OK: “I’m a social organizer…for my husband! And I like to travel.” OK: “I take care of my family and volunteer at church.” NOT OK: “Pancake artiste.” (Save that for the ‘occupation’ box on visa forms. Ms. Fashionable and I did this en route from Hong Kong with no reprisals.)
3. Now YOU get to ask the questions. 🙂 When in doubt, ask where the restroom is or whether they’ve tried the cheese ball.